Still a ‘window for diplomacy’ to avert war over Ukraine, says No 10

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said intelligence reports suggest Russia still intends to invade its neighbour.

21 February 2022

Downing Street has said there is still a “window for diplomacy” to avert war over Ukraine after Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin tentatively agreed to a possible crisis summit.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said intelligence reports suggested Russia still intends to attack its neighbour with the Kremlin’s plan beginning to play out.

However, after French President Emmanuel Macron worked to broker a meeting between the US and Russian leaders in a series of calls over the weekend, the spokesman said there was still a chance of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

“Intelligence we are seeing suggests Russia intends to launch an invasion and President Putin’s plan has in effect already begun,” the spokesman said.

“We are seeing elements of the Russian playbook we would expect to see in those situations starting to play out in real time.

“Crucially we still think there is a window for diplomacy. I think that is what we have seen in discussions over the weekend and we want to explore those.”

Earlier, following talks in Brussels with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said an invasion still appeared to be “highly likely”.

“Diplomacy must be pursued but a Russian invasion of Ukraine looks highly likely,” she tweeted.

“The UK and allies are stepping up preparations for the worst-case scenario. We must make the cost for Russia intolerably high.”

The latest warnings came after western leaders repeatedly claimed Moscow could be preparing a “false flag” operation to provide a pretext for an attack after massing more than 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that while Mr Putin and Mr Biden could meet if they considered it necessary, no plans for a summit had been agreed.

“It’s premature to talk about specific plans for a summit. The meeting is possible if the leaders consider it feasible,” he said.

Andrei Kelin during an interview with the PA news agency
Andrei Kelin during an interview with the PA news agency (Aaron Chown/PA)

Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, said it was still too early to say whether a meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Putin would take place.

He told the PA news agency it would be a “good result” if sufficient progress was made in talks to allow the summit to go ahead.

But he said the West is “not very interested in resolving the core question, the issue of the enlargement of Nato, the open door policy”.

Further discussions are expected to take place later this week between US secretary of state Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

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